Automated Long Beach Container Terminal & Marine 5 Highway Ships

Posted on: June 1st, 2015 by Stas

Automated Long Beach Container Terminal & Marine 5 Highway Ships Can Reduce I-710/5/580 Truck Congestion & Emissions

 By Stas Margaronis

Super economical, 18,000 twenty foot unit container ships will be arriving at the Port of Long Beach’s new Long Beach Container Terminal (LBCT) after the automated terminal opens in early 2016.

LBCT will allow Long Beach to handle the largest ships in the world, access more Asia imports and exports and provide lower cost cargo-handling and ocean transportation costs.

LBCT is owned by Hong Kong-based Orient Overseas Container Line (OOCL) and will be one of the most automated container handling facilities in the world.

New coastal Marine 5 Highway ships can be built to do pick ups and deliveries from Long Beach to the ports of Oakland, Stockton and eventually other Pacific Coast ports.

Building new, low-emission Marine 5 Highway ships will allow San Joaquin Valley (SJV) agricultural exporters faster pick ups and deliveries using the Port of Stockton to provide direct vessel service to Long Beach. The result will be an SJV freight express.

It is estimated that 1,600 imported containers per day are trucked into the San Joaquin Valley from Oakland via the I-580 freeway.[1]

New ships can reduce emissions versus trucks by as much as 80%.[2]

LBCT’s new, automated terminal will also reduce emissions using electrically powered equipment. LBCT will coordinate its operations using the latest Navis-based cargo-handling software to integrate cranes, automated guided vehicles, automated stacking systems and cargo stowage on ships.

LBCT has won the praise of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU). The ILWU praises terminal managers for working collaboratively with the union to make the new operation a success.

LBCT was constructed by the Port of Long Beach at a cost of $1.3 billion plus another $650 million provided by LBCT for cargo-handling equipment, according to Port officials.

The new developments are timely because shippers have been expressing growing dissatisfaction with the reliability of container handling services at U.S. Pacific Coast ports, culminating in major disruptions during the 2014-2015 port labor negotiation.  A Journal of Commerce story on U.S. retailer responses suggests that the port congestion might be the tipping point in permanently shifting some Asian cargoes to Atlantic Coast ports. This would be a disaster for SJV agricultural exporters if reduced ocean carrier service resulted.  Some shippers are switching because Pacific Coast labor issues, congestion and delays contribute to an image of Pacific Coast port unreliability.[3] There are six new Asia vessel services by-passing California ports and transporting containers to Atlantic Coast ports. The eleven main Atlantic Coast ports registered a 26 percent year-over-year gain in Asian volume during the first quarter of 2015, while West Coast volume dropped 6 percent.[4] There is also renewed interest in diverting cargoes to Mexico. At a May 8th California Senate hearing on “Ports & Goods Movement” in Long Beach, Senator Ricardo Lara asked whether it was possible shippers might be willing to pay more to avoid service disruption and assure reliability by going to Atlantic Coast ports.

The Ports of Oakland, Long Beach and Los Angeles have worked hard to improve container flows and chassis supply in the aftermath of the labor slow down, but this may not be enough.

Marine Highway ships could be the answer. The new ships can be designed with open hatches for quick loading and unloading and the latest scrubber technology to reduce emissions. One small ship can carry 337 loaded forty-foot containers. This would replace long-haul trucking and allow shippers from Northern California, Oregon and Washington to access LBCT. Marine Highway ships would reduce road congestion at Long Beach and take long-haul trucks off the I-170/5/580 freeways.

[1] Port of Stockton estimate 5/20/15

[2]  Port of Stockton,  “Air Quality/Greenhouse Gas Technical Report for the Short-Sea Shipping Project” (2010)



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